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July 27, 2010 > Process streamlined for food stamp recipients

Process streamlined for food stamp recipients

Submitted By Lizelda Lopez, California Department of Social Services

On July 23, John Wagner, director of the California Department of Social Services (CDSS) announced the implementation of a new statewide policy that allows for the immediate restoration of food stamp benefits. Previously, if a household's benefits were terminated for failing to comply with a requirement of the program, they were required to re-apply. Restoration of benefits will be automatic if the household can comply with program requirements within one month of termination of benefits. The household's benefits for the first month will be pro-rated from the date they comply.

"California continues to proactively remove barriers and improve services to facilitate families' access to healthy, nutritious food," said Wagner. "CDSS continues to encourage qualified Californians to apply for benefits and to maintain benefits in a more streamlined, efficient manner with this new policy and other recent policy changes."

In late 2009, CDSS requested the waiver from the United States Department of Agriculture, Food and Nutrition Service to allow county welfare departments (CWDs) the ability to restore benefits when an easily remedied condition, such as failing to submit paperwork, is satisfied. The new policy makes it easier for eligible households to maintain their benefits and creates new county-level, program-administration efficiencies.

To qualify for food stamps, an individual's household gross income may not exceed 130 percent of the federal poverty level - about $1,984 a month for a family of three. Households with elderly and disabled individuals may have incomes up to 165 percent of the federal poverty level - about $2,518 a month for a family of three. Individuals who apply have up one year to comply with the fingerprint imaging requirements of the program.

The CDSS has actively pursued opportunities to increase access to food stamps for needy Californians. Specifically, in 2009, the CDSS received federal approval to give CWDs the option of waiving the face-to-face interview for food stamp recipients. Counties are in the process of implementing this waiver.

In conjunction with the California Department of Public Health, the CDSS has worked with community organizations in 43 counties to reach under-served communities to help qualified individuals apply for food stamps. Since 2009, funding for this effort has more than doubled, from $6M to $13M. Between March 2007 and March 2010, the number of Californians receiving food stamps increased from 2.1 million people to 3.27 million.

Learn more about applying for food stamps by visiting the CDSS Web site which links to a federal pre-screening tool that most individuals can use to see if they are eligible. Download application forms and complete them before visiting their county welfare office. A list of county welfare offices is available on the CDSS Web site at www.dss.cahwnet.gov/foodstamps/PG839.htm.

For more information on the Food Stamp Program, please visit CDSS Web site at www.dss.cahwnet.gov/foodstamps/PG847.htm.

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